One year our church celebrated Christmas by giving a birthday present to Jesus. On the first Sunday in December, I asked the congregation to think about what Jesus Christ really meant to them, and to offer a gift on the altar to symbolize their love for Him and their commitment to Him. I informed them that we would have a special Christmas service on the Sunday before Christmas, and as many as wanted to participate could come and present their gift and explain its significance.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Several members came to me asking for ideas about what they should give, but I gave them little help. I told each of them that they should give something that represented their personal relationship with Jesus. Whatever they chose to give didn’t necessarily have to be tangible, but it did have to come from their heart. When the time came for our special service, we were extraordinarily blessed by the special visitation of the Spirit of God.
One of our members, an avid Green Bay Packers fan, brought his football card collection. He explained that he had realized that his love for sports sometimes conflicted with his love for the Lord, and that sports often received the greater priority. He admitted that he probably knew more football stats than Bible verses. His gift represented his renewed commitment to put the Lord Jesus in first place in his life.
An elderly lady, who had been the church organist for more than fifty years, came to offer a song. This wouldn’t mean much to most people. But we all knew that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After more than fifty years at the organ, she suddenly quit one day with no explanation. We didn’t understand at first, but as we watched her personality change from one week to the next, we soon learned the tragic news of her disease. It had been months since she had touched a keyboard, but on this day she sat quietly at the piano and played “Happy Birthday to You” without missing a note. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Another lady came whose daughter had died more than a year prior to this. Her daughter was a Down’s Syndrome child whom she had taken care of for nearly thirty years. Her grief was deep and prolonged, and she questioned why God would take such an innocent life. I had prayed for her many times, but she just could not get over her grief. Ever since her daughter’s death, part of her daily routine had been to visit the grave and weep. But this day she stood at the altar with a little angel in her hand. She explained that the angel had been on her daughter’s grave since the day she was buried. On this day, however, she was leaving the angel on the altar and placing her complete faith and trust in God concerning her daughter, even though she didn’t fully understand what God was doing.
Several others brought gifts, each with a special significance to the giver. As they shared their gifts with the rest of us, we were all truly amazed and greatly blessed by the simple expressions of love for the Lord. I am convinced that He looked upon that service and wept. It was a Christmas I will never forget.